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iSchool evening program becomes "self-sustaining"
By Michael Harkovitch
November 25, 2002

Uncertainty and frustration followed an official announcement earlier this quarter that the iSchool's MLIS Evening Degree Program will now have to be self-sustaining as part of a $20 million university-wide reduction in funds. The decision to cease state support of some of the stronger professional evening degree programs at UW was made at the president/provost level as part of a series of drastic budget cuts that have occurred across state programs.

While several details are still being worked out, MLIS evening students will find the biggest impact of the change in the way they register and pay for classes. Tuition, for the most part, will remain the same, except for evening students wishing to take 10 or more credits. "We are hopeful that this change will have a negligible effect on the iSchool and on students," iSchool Associate Dean for Academics Allyson Carlyle stated in an email interview. "In fact, we've worked very hard to make the impact as small as possible."

Evening students will have to register and pay for courses through the University of Washington Educational Outreach (UWEO) Office beginning winter quarter 2003. But Carlyle was quick to point out that evening students will remain iSchool students despite the administrative changes. "…I've heard concerns, the most significant of which is that some students had the impression that they will be receiving their degree from UWEO and not from the UW iSchool. This is entirely untrue - all students admitted to the MLIS program and taking classes are matriculated students of the University of Washington, the same as students in the state supported programs. When they receive their degree, it is exactly the same degree," she said.

Evening MLIS students receiving aid through the UW Student Financial Aid Office will continue to receive their aid, Carlyle said, though funds will now be disbursed directly to the student rather than applied to tuition and fees, leaving the student responsible for paying their tuition. Students with concerns about financial aid should contact iSchool Student Services Administrator Lynnea Erickson.

Despite a minor technical glitch last month in the entry code system, requesting entry codes will remain the same for all iSchool students. Day and evening MLIS students will still be able to request entry codes from (and later register for) each other's course offerings during entry code period C. How the changes affect evening students taking courses from another department is uncertain at this time.

"The important things remain the same," noted iSchool evening student Amanda Powter, also a senator in the Graduate and Professional Student Senate (GPSS). "The requirements in the program are the same. The instructors are the same. The schedule of classes will be the same."

Powter said while the iSchool had the option to raise tuition or shut down the Evening Degree Program entirely, the iSchool opted to make the program self-sustaining. Several students have expressed concerns to Powter about the changes, which she relayed to iSchool Dean Mike Eisenberg at a recent student leader meeting. "These changes are relatively recent, so the full impact of the switch to the UWEO registration has not yet been felt," she said. Among the main concerns expressed by evening MLIS students are tuition rates, registration logistics, and degree status.

Carlyle said the short notice of the changes came as a shock to many students and some faculty, but announcement of the changes was postponed until the financial impact on students was known. "It took us much longer than we expected to figure out whether we could afford to offer the program at the same price as before," she said.

While withdrawal of state funding for evening programs left faculty and administration scrambling for answers and alternatives, it also grants the iSchool greater control of its evening MLIS program because "it allows the iSchool the opportunity to expand enrollment in the evening program if the demand is there," Carlyle said. "As a state supported program, we would not have the same flexibility."

For state-supported students, university and student fees are deducted, then the remainder of their tuition money is allocated by the central administration across UW, Powter explained. However, in the self-sustaining model, MLIS evening students will pay the same amount of tuition, as well as the normal UW and student fees (technology, UPASS, student activities fees), but the remainder of the money goes directly to the iSchool.

The UW Graduate School has several hundred more graduate students enrolled than are currently supported by state funds, and was required to identify ways of bringing the number down, according to Powter. "Evening programs were targeted for a number of reasons, including that they seemed to be the easiest and most practical to make self-sustaining," she said.

And while the changes seem to be mostly under control, both Carlyle and Powter admitted that a number of details that have yet to be worked out may cause some problems down the road. "Unfortunately, we know there will be problems," Carlyle said, "but we hope that students will come directly to us when they occur, and we will do our best to make sure everything goes smoothly."

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Edited by Michael Harkovitch

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